Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : July 26, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
Here's what we played on the England Swings show last night :

Bullet For My Valentine - Your Betrayal (Fever)
Riva Starr - I Was Drunk

Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Combat Rock)
Kele - Everything You Wanted (The Boxer)

La Roux - Bulletproof (Acoustic)
Fanfarlo - Fire Escape (Reservoir)

Petula Clark - I Couldn't Live Without Your Love
Foundations - Any Old Time You're Lonely and Sad

Jamie Cullum - Don't Stop the Music (The Pursuit)
Jamie Lidell - I Wanna Be Your Telephone (Compass)

The Fab Four Freakout :

Sir Mix-A-Lot Vs. Wings : Baby's Got Silly Love Songs
Beatles - Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles)
Beatles - When I Get Home (A Hard Day's Night)

M.I.A. - Lovalot (Maya)

Al Stewart - Song On the Radio (Time Passages)

Groove Armada - History (Black Light)
Monkees - When Love Comes Knocking At Your Door (More of the Monkees)

...and this week's top 5 songs in England :

5). Eliza Doolittle - Pack Up (new)
4). Katy Perry - California Gurls (non-mover)
3). B.o.B. - Airplanes (-2)
2). Eminem - Love the Way You Lie (+1)
1). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (+1)


This week the British charts continue to reflect the American charts, with three songs still crossing over to appear to both country's Top Five. There's one new entry, and a lower song rises to the pole position. 

The Eliza Doolittle ditty "Pack Up" manages to climb from the lower reaches of the top ten to end up at number 5 this week. If you're hearing her for the first time, go and check out "Skinny Genes" from earlier this year - although it didn't become as big of a hit as this song, it's still very good. 

"Pack Up" does manage to maintain the Doolittle style; it sounds old-fashioned and bouncy, with horns, sweetened strings, and a lovely "tweet-tweet" from Eliza herself about two-thirds of the way through. Eliza is a major new retro talent; I'm not sure she'll become as big as, say, Amy Winehouse, but she's got the chops. I'm giving "Pack Up" an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

Katy Perry has performed the anthem of the summer of 2010 with "California Gurls"; the song has struck a chord (excuse the pun) with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Look at the statistics : 

 - Six weeks at the top of the chart in the USA
 - Six weeks in the top 5 in the UK, two of those at number one

Having a hit at the top of the American charts for that length of time is not unusual, but anything over a couple of weeks in the top 5 of the UK is more of an achievement. 

I don't feel a need to describe the song; if you haven't managed to hear it somewhere yet, then you must listen to news radio all the time (and I'm pretty sure it's turned up there, too . . . ). It's rather hard to say anything negative about it by now; I could just say I'm a little tired of the song. I give it a 7.

After one week at the top of the chart in the UK - and no concurrent number one in America - B.o.B. drops two spaces to number three this week. 

Good. Whereas I don't actively dislike the song, it's rather inconsequential and borders on silly. 

All this while being dead serious and a bit depressing. Hayley Williams of Paramore is the "guest", but - as I've said before - it's only her part that's remotely memorable. B.o.B. is not the best modern rapper. He's not whiny like many British rappers, but he's also fairly lightweight. I give this song a 5.5.

Speaking of active dislike, Eminem rises a place to number 2 with the middle-aged spew of "Love the Way You Lie". The story of a couple (literally) at each other's throats, the song has just become less attractive - as a matter of fact, downright ugly - in recent weeks. I'm sad to report that the tune has risen to number one in America this week. I guess there are a ton of dysfunctional people out there who can relate. Me? I give it a 3 this week. 

Yolanda Be Cool and DCup, a duo and their producer from Australia, have managed to make it all the way to the top with "We No Speak Americano", and that's good news! This is what I love about following the British charts; we've got the American dross, sure, but only the British (in the English-speaking world, anyway) would send a song like this to the top. Three cheers!

I think I've described the song before, but if you're only reading this for the first time : the group has taken an old hit from Italy, chopped it and rolled it into a retro-modern melange in just the right way. Danceable, loose, and fun, the song deserves to be a hit. I give it an 8.


Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws

With their debut album "I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose", and their previous EPs, BBC (!) established themselves as, well, a quirky indie group. Unfortunately, the release of the album coincided with the drop in credibility of quirky indie groups, mainly because there were so many of them. BBC had a unique sound, but the songwriting was not quite good enough to propel them into the major leagues.

With the new album "Flaws", the group has solved that problem by going in a completely different direction. The path they've chosen is one that is fairly well-trod nowadays, but guess what? They do it REALLY well. 

The first album must have given them the confidence to bring out the REAL Bombay Bicycle Club, which is not quirky and indie, no. 

They're quirky and folky instead.

Modern folk of the last couple of years stems from several sources : there's the "freak-folk" of Devendra Banhart and kin, and there's the heart-on-sleeve beautiful meanderings of Bon Iver. In the UK, we've had the rise of Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, and several others.

BBC's "Flaws" takes the best elements of all this, and melds it together into an album of soft, subtle tunes, every one of which features an acoustic guitar and the vocal stylings of Jack Steadman. 

Steadman has an odd, but effective voice. He sounds tremulous and unsure, providing a contrast to the surety of the instrumentation. Said instrumentation, as a matter of fact, is ALL acoustic, with occasional banjo and barely touched drumming. 

The album features Bombay Bicycle Club covering itself - songs such as "Dust In the Ground" and "Jewel" have appeared previously in different forms. There are also a couple of covers of other artists. 

The album is listenable as a whole, and is remarkably consistent in its atmosphere, Describing one song is much like describing them all, but there are some that have stood out to me : 

"Ivy and Gold" is the single released from the record, and features a marvelous guitar riff that sounds like it came straight from a few hundred years ago. Modern folk is influenced in some respects by ancient folk, and I can hear Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span in here. 

"Leaving Blues" is short and sweet, featuring only voice and guitar. It sets a melancholic tone that ranks up with the best of similar songs about separation and isolation. 

Opening track "Rinse Me Down" has a simple vocal line and beautiful guitar work. 

I have to admit that I liked the tune of "Fairytale Lullaby" but that I thought the lyrics were a bit twee and hipple-ish. That was before I found out that the song was the cover of a hippie song from the proper time period by John Martyn. Okay. Now I like it unreservedly. 

The last song on the album is a cover of Joanna Newsom's "Swansea", and BBC has turned it into a Fleet Foxes tribute, in a way. That's not to denigrate it; it sounds beautiful. 

Hopefully, BBC have now found their place in modern music and will treat us to future records that maintain the quality of this one. I give "Flaws" an 8.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

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